Andy Westlake reviews a new concept in camera bags

Ikigai Rival Backpack at a glance:

  • Backpack with separate removable camera cell
  • Laptop compartment
  • Secure access through back
  • Additional camera cells available separately
  • Price: £229.99
  • Website:

Newcomer Ikigai aims to take the humble camera bag and do something a bit different to the norm. Its idea is to produce a modular system that will allow padded camera cells to be interchanged between different types of outer bag. Its first products are two different sized backpacks, and we’re looking at the smaller of them here.

In essence, you get a medium-sized backpack with a black nylon exterior, well-padded shoulder straps and a back that’s designed to promote airflow and stop you getting sweaty. The contents are accessed by means of a zip that extends all around the back of the bag. Undoing it reveals a laptop compartment that will accommodate models with screens up to 15in, such as a MacBook Pro, backed with another slimline sleeve for a tablet. The camera cell is an entirely separate bag that clips inside; it has a zipped top cover, along with zipped flaps allowing access from the sides. It will hold a professional DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, along with another four lenses and other accessories.

Ikigai-rival-backpackIkigai Rival Backpack – Key features

Expandable top section

There’s a small section at the top of the bag for personal items or accessories, which can be expanded by undoing a zip

Detachable tripod holder

A full-sized tripod (50cm/20in folded) can be carried on the back, using a clip-on ‘bucket’ to hold the feet and a strap to secure it.

Mesh pockets

Additional elasticated mesh pockets on each side will hold a water bottle or umbrella.

Ikigai Rival Backpack – Our verdict

There’s a lot to like about this bag – it seems sturdy and well made, and the quality of materials and finish is very good. Likewise, the camera cell is thickly padded and easily reconfigurable between top and side access, and the lime-green interior keeps contents visible. The main problem is that it’s impossible to get at your kit on the go – there’s no access except through two sets of zips at the back. Also, the dual-bag design means you can fit less in compared to conventional backpacks of a similar size. So while the concept is interesting, it needs further work to be really practical.

SCORE: 3 out of 5


About Ikigai

Ikigai takes its name from a Japanese word that translates as ‘strength from within’. It’s a new company, but it does have real pedigree. Its lead designer previously held the same position at Kata, before it was bought and absorbed by Manfrotto.

Ikigai’s key concept is to produce a modular system, using interchangeable camera cells that clip in and out of various styles of bag. So, for example, you might switch from carrying a backpack to a messenger bag by simply moving a camera cell between them.

Alternatively, you might pick alternate camera cells with different sets of equipment, depending on the shoot. It’s an intriguing idea and it will be interesting to see whether Ikigai can make it work.